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Cycling, Wine and Cultural Tours in the Dordogne, Pyrenees and Southwest of France.

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Chateau de Pitray
Chateau de Pitray

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  • Without a doubt, this was the cycling trip of a lifetime. The route took us over some of the most challenging and spectacular terrain I've ever encountered. Being an avid cyclist, to have ridden climbs such as the Tourmalet, Aubisque, Marie-Blanque, Peyresourde, and Pailheres is an accomplishment I will brag about for years to come

    Rose Hewig, attended in 2009.

     

    Not to be believed! When this trip was first planned I thought to myself, are you crazy? 12 days of riding, 7000-8000 feet per day of climbing? The more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it, and so I did. What an amazing trip. As I have said to everyone, it was everything I expected and much, much more.

    Jeff Dux, attended in 2006 and 2010..

    Don't get your hopes up, these are not the grand prize winnings for best rider in the Pyrenees challenge for 2012. Dream On! Like my dream of winning the Super Lotto Jackpot ... it was up somewhere around 650 million ... now I have to give the cars back. You can imagine my disappointment, I'm shattered.

    Biarritz became popular in the mid 19th century when the wife of Napoleon the III built a palace on the beach (now the Hotel du Palais). And that IS NOT the palace pictured above, but another stately home perched along the rocky coastline. Much of the architecture in Biarritz dates from the 19th century.

    Alright, here is a picture of the Hotel du Palais. The place is massive, and what you see here is only one wing of the structure. If you make an effort to walk about town when you are in Biarritz you'll find it.

    Moving away from the coast and into the mountains ... this is what you are coming for, this is our goal and Holy Grail ... a tsunami of mountains. The majority of people would groan with agony at the thought of riding a bike across these mountains, and yet we salivate.

    2010, on the way to Col de Marie Blanque ... temperature in the am high 50s; weather forecast SUN all day; current road conditions perfect; emotional stress: none.

    Talk about emotional stress ... try procrastinating until the last minute before you have to high-light the ride routes on everyone's maps. Geeeeez (it isn't as quick and easy as you think, everyone gets a set of 3 maps, because it takes 3 maps to cover the Pyrenees from coast to coast). Even though we use gps garmin technology, you still get the back-up print technology with all the sweat and hard labour preparations. Remember that when you crumple, rip and tear your maps as you abuse them during our travels. Pictured here is Jeff (on the left) and me using the billiard's table at Chateau Pitray to mark the maps.

    Of course one would expect obstinance from animals, blocking the road like usual, so quaint and cute ... but obstinance from the riders in the group will not be tolerated. You are required to be jovial, thankful and excited every day, anything less and I will threaten you with van driving duties ... and a big black X on your jersey.

    2007, Craig almost at the top of the Col de Mente, the 4th of 5 passes for the day. Craig was, and probably still is, particularly looney because he had just completed the PBP 4 or 5 days before the start of this trip. I like this picture for all the obvious reasons: the horizon, the winding road and perfect pavement, and most of all Charles, a.k.a. the Barnacle, dropping everyone as he flutters away ... that is him, the blue spec in the upper right hand corner. I will always remember when Ron "bonked" on this day at about this spot, and he was harassed (good natured of course) for the remainder of the trip with, "a man has got to know his limitations."

    Take a guess ... correct, this is the eastern Pyrenees, known as the Pyrenees Oriental. 2011, Joe camouflaged to the right.

    And you thought the Texas Long Horn cows looked tough. Well now this here is Pyrenees Mountain Climbing Long Horn cows, and they don't moo. Instead they look down their noses with that classic French contempt while saying, "life is hard, get use to it."

    An organized pace line, cooperation ... smart. Who will be the first to launch a "French attack?"

    I did not take this photo with the Instagram App. I think this is 2005 ... I'm pretty sure it is the odd years that they paint the sheep red.

    2002, Mom and Ben at the top of the Col d'Aubisque. Ben hates it when you put a leash on him, he immediately goes into sulking mode.